Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment search service. 

If you are a satisfied tenant faced with a slight rental increase, the best thing to do might be to stay put.

But if the decor of your rental is straight out of “The Brady Bunch,” you may be ready for a change.

Moving to a newer rental with stainless-steel appliances and granite counter tops may sound appealing. But if this will cost you roughly $300 to $400 more a month plus a move-in fee, you might want to consider an alternative.

One possibility is discussing your concerns with your landlord, inquiring whether updating could make your rental a happier place to stay. An independent landlord not affiliated with a rental company might be easier to work with. Updating the rental would also benefit your landlord by increasing the value of the property and making it easier for him to find another tenant once you leave.

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There are several categories of updates. The most affordable ones include new light switches, toilet seats or shower bar. Some of these smaller updates are worth it to a landlord to keep a good tenant happy. The cost is much lower than getting an apartment painted, cleaned and ready for a new tenant and the risk of having the apartment being vacant for a month or two.

More costly upgrades that yield the most return on investment in general center on the kitchen. Adding a dishwasher, upgrading a dishwasher to a high-end model, adding a high-end refrigerator and installing granite counter tops could go a long way to increasing your comfort and your landlord’s value. Adding anything above basic rental grade appliances will be an improvement.

Other updates in that category include new ceiling fans, bathroom vanities and lighting.

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The last category consists of improvements that are aimed more at your taste and may yield little for your landlord’s investment.

They include custom lighting, custom closet built-ins, window treatments and custom faucets. These changes would not necessarily be cost effective for the landlord because they may not necessarily appeal to future tenants.

If the updates you’re seeking are not something your landlord was planning to do, you can offer to pay for them or a portion of them either upfront or offer an additional amount of rent over an agreed-upon term.

If the appliances you are trying to upgrade are in good working order, you can offer to help the landlord sell them to defray the cost of the new ones. If you can’t work out a reasonable sum with your landlord, then it may be time to move.

If the increased monthly cost is less than a new apartment, then upgrading your rental may be a great way to improve the quality of your space affordably without the hassle of moving.

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